Zelda (ゼルダ, Zeruda) is a playable fighter in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The titular character of the Legend of Zelda universe, Zelda's model from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is reused in Brawl.
Having previously appeared in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Zelda reappears in Brawl as a character utilizing strong magical attacks, but despite many of her attributes being strongly buffed, her tier position is far worse than in Melee at 37 out of 38 compared to 19 out of 26 in the earlier game. While Zelda possesses fast, powerful attacks, some of the most powerful aerials in Brawl, and a fast and powerful multihit up smash that's nearly impossible to SDI out of and covers the area around her, Zelda suffers from a combination of severe character build flaws. These flaws include a very inconvenient combination of attributes similar to Mewtwo (slow, light, tall, and floaty), her almost non-existent approach options, possessing a moveset that consists nearly entirely of unreliable finishers (which makes it difficult for her to KO despite her abundance of powerful attacks, and leaves her with one of the worst comboing abilities, with her down tilt being her only move that can set up well), a very poor projectile that can't force approaches, and her predictable and unreliable recovery (like Wolf, her primary recovery move suffers from major angular issues, though unlike Wolf, she doesn't have access to an alternate recovery move nor the air speed and jumping abilities to make it back without using a recovery move). This has left her with terrible tournament results and having terrible matchups against many higher tiered characters, ultimately clocking her in F Tier right above the worst spot (with Ganondorf being the only fighter ranked lower than her) - although the combination of her and her transformation, Sheik is higher at 24/38, placed in the D tier.
Zelda is a floaty, lightweight character with poor momentum canceling (making her very easy to KO but difficult to chain throw) with strong, graceful attacks, usually augmented with magic. Many of her moves hit multiple times before causing knockback. This allows her to easily deal large damage to multiple targets, but it also means that these attacks can be DI'd out of fairly easily. She has very good defensive options, with her up and side smashes having fast start-up and multiple hitboxes, her down smash having almost no start-up lag, and locking opponents with her down tilt. She is can juggle at lower percentages thanks to her up smash's fast, multiple hitboxes. Her directional aerials are single, powerful blows that cause a lot of damage and knockback if landed properly, but her attacks are extremely weak and have low stun when sourspotted. Many of her moves make powerful finishers, including her smash attacks, her up tilt, and aerials. Her strong defense is counterbalanced by her generally poor mobility (very slow dash speed, mediocre aerial speed). Her grab is long ranged, but very slow (especially for a non-tether grab) making it hard to land without set ups, and it cannot be used out of shield in most cases like a normal grab. Zelda can be described as a glass cannon: she can pump out a lot of damage if the opponent approaches her, but she won't survive long once she starts getting hit.
Her special attacks are also assets to Zelda, granting her a projectile, reflector, a teleport with large range and many invincibility frames, and the ability to transform into her alter ego, Sheik. Din's Fire is slow, is long ranged, has a large hitbox when and deals much damage when fully charges, KOs at high percents, cannot properly be reflected, can be controlled, and be used for edgeguarding. However, it is extremely predictable and avoidable against skilled players (easy to spot dodge or air dodge), being impossible to camp with against most characters (with very few exceptions, like the Ice Climbers). Nayru's Love is a decent duration reflector attack and spacing tool but suffers from high ending lag. Despite her defensive game, it's easy to force her to play offensively and she has abysmal approach options, because of her poor approach aerials and very slow dash speed and grab. As mentioned before, she can't camp with her Din's Fire either. This means despite her defensive game, she gets very few chances to use it and instead is forced to play with her horrible offensive game due to her very limited approach. Farore's Wind is a long distance recovery/attack, but her linear recovery is below average (falls almost straight down after it, and she has a small ledge sweetspot range) among cast members because of its low reliability as it's also easy to hit her before she disappears due to its slow start-up.
In the end, Zelda relies on her strong defensive game and potential power to overcome her weaknesses, which is usually hard to do. Zelda is a character that has hard time to approach her opponents, but once she does, she can be a devastating character. Transform can also shore up some of Zelda's weaknesses by turning into Sheik, and vice-versa.
Changes from Melee to Brawl
Zelda has been buffed from Super Smash Bros. Melee to Brawl, with most of her moves generally improved in speed and/or power, including increased damage & knockback from her standard attack and improvements to most of her special moves:
Transform is Zelda's only special move that didn't improve - the transformation time is now longer, as the new character model is read from the disk rather than held in memory (pausing the game reduces the in-play time taken as a result). Zelda's sourspotted aerials are weaker, but on the flipside the sweetspots have become more powerful. Her up aerial is now a much better KOing move, but its explosion has a smaller hitbox. Her down aerial has Lightning Kick style damage and knockback on its sweetspot. Both Zelda's dash speed & grab speed have been slightly increased (though both are still very slow).
As noted earlier though, Zelda has ironically dropped in effectiveness in competitive play despite these buffs. This can mostly be attributed to Brawl's physic changes and more defensive based gameplay augmenting her flaws from Melee (poor endurance/survivability, poor approach, moveset mostly consisting of unreliable finishers that don't string well), areas which Zelda saw little to no improvement in from the transition to Brawl.
Zelda also had a few cosmetic changes. Her fighter design is now based on the Princess Zelda from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, whereas Melee's was based on the earlier design from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which inspires her blonde-haired/pink dress palette swap for Zelda in Brawl. Her dashing animation and "toppling" animation are both new.
Brawl instruction booklet description
"The queen of Hyrule. Her light moves belie devastating magical attacks."
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
Zelda was initially seen as a solid middle tier character, being ranked 20th on the first tier list; her significant buffs in Brawl made her a very powerful character that was able to compete decently with the then inexperienced playerbase, who didn't utilise much camping and were not as capable of evading attacks. As the metagame progressed however, it became realised Zelda's buffs did little to address the very significant problems of her character design; Din's Fire was still a terrible projectile that couldn't force approaches while Zelda herself was still very slow and incapable of initiating approaches, and her moveset still consisted of unreliable finishers that made it very difficult for her to rack up damage as well as reliably KO when the opponent is in KO range. As Brawl became more defensive based and camping became more prevalent, Zelda's problems were significantly exasperated, and it became clearer and clearer that Zelda was a poorly-designed character that could not remotely viably compete.
Zelda's decline started slowly, with her only falling two places on the second tier list. But it picked up on the third tier list with her falling four places, and then she took a nose dive on the fourth tier list to 35th in bottom tier as the third worst character. She fell even farther to being ranked the second worst character on the fifth tier list, and has been stuck there since, which is also the largest tier drop any character experienced in Brawl. Nowadays Zelda's position is just as low, and there are some players who even think that Zelda is the worst character in Brawl and not Ganondorf. While Zelda does have a few players dedicated to using her, her overall playerbase is very small and makes virtually no impact, thus there's little hope Zelda's competitive prospects will ever improve in Brawl.
However, while Zelda is considered a candidate for worst character in Brawl singles, she performs a bit better in doubles, where her significant flaws are less exploitable, and her strengths are a bit more advantageous. Riot for example, routinely places well in doubles events in his region, while he usually performs mediocre in singles, if he enters singles at all.
In Event Matches
Single Player Events
At the start, she and Peach are watching a friendly match between Mario and Kirby. After the Halberd appears, she and Peach rush from offstage after the stadium is attacked by the Primid. The player can choose out of the four to fight off the Primids. When the Ancient Minister appears and drops a Subspace bomb, Mario is blasted away by a cannonball when he tries to stop it. Zelda and Peach are captured by Petey Piranha. The player, as Kirby, must save either Peach or Zelda by destroying one of their cages.
If Zelda is saved, she joins Kirby as they both escape from the stadium on a Warp Star. They are pursued by the Halberd, and land on top of it. Soon they fall off and reach the ground, fighting along through hordes of Subspace foes. Later on, Kirby leaves Zelda behind, and Bowser appears from the sky and turns her into a trophy.
The Shadow Bugs (which came along with Bowser) make a clone of Zelda that proceeds to ambush Link and Yoshi with a Dark Cannon. However, Pit destroys the Dark Cannon and he and Mario fight and defeat her. When the clone is defeated, Link witnesses her trophy disintegrating into Shadow Bugs and, believing it was the real Zelda, proceeds to attack both Mario and Pit with Yoshi’s help. Mario and Pit defeat them and turn them into trophies and then Link and Yoshi fall into a state of unconsciousness as trophies.
If Zelda was not saved, Wario appears whilst she is trapped under her wrecked cage. He blasts her with a Dark Cannon and turns her into a trophy, before fleeing the stadium with her. She is later captured by King Dedede when he ambushes Wario and steals his Cargo along with Ness. As he passes Link and company, Link spots her on the back of the Cargo, and Pit shoots the Cargo, slowing it down so that they can pursue Dedede.
Dedede puts his own Dedede brooch on her, but when Bowser attacks his castle, he finds her trophy and takes it. However, he is pursued by Mario and Pit, and when Pit fires an arrow at Bowser, the Dedede brooch falls off and is found by Kirby. Bowser escapes in the Koopa Clown Car and takes her trophy up to the waiting Halberd.
At a later part of the story, Zelda and Peach are discovered by Lucario, Meta Knight, and Snake in cages aboard the Battleship Halberd, stuck in their trophy form. Shadowbugs of the princesses then fight the trio. After being freed, Snake tells both Zelda and Peach to stay in the room that they were being held captive in. Zelda transforms into Sheik, and both she and Peach make their way to the deck of the Halberd, against Snake's orders.
When Fox attacks the Halberd against and nearly hits Peach by accident, Sheik uses Vanish to appear on top of Fox's Arwing. She then breaks the cockpit and Fox ejects, and they both fall to the Halberd. Just as they begin to fight, Peach holds up a hand and yells, "Hi!" Both Fox and Sheik look over, and find Peach has just offered them both tea. Fox, looking confused, looks to Sheik, to find she has already begun to drink. Fox accepts the tea and they do not fight again.
As Sheik, Zelda helps Peach, Fox, Lucario, Snake and Falco defeat Duon. She is on the Halberd when Meta Knight lands it and meets up with the two other groups. Sometime between the defeat of Duon and the entrance to Subspace, she returns to Zelda's appearance.
During the fight against Tabuu, Zelda (along with all the other characters) gets turned into a trophy. If she is revived, she, along with Link, revives Ganondorf and points out what happened. She then aids the heroes in defeating Tabuu at the end of the story.
Zelda, like Luigi, doesn't have the trophy form pose of her collectable trophy. She instead has her arm in front of her rather than behind, as in her down taunt.
The following stickers can either only be used by Zelda or by a small set of characters which includes her:
Zelda's trophy is obtained by clearing Classic Mode with Zelda.
The princess of Hyrule. In other games, her role changes between titles. In Ocarina of Time, she was hunted by the would-be conqueror, Ganondorf. She deceived him, however, by adopting the persona of Sheik. In Twilight Princess, she surrendered to Zant and was held as his prisoner.